Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Advice For Effective Advertising

Recently a couple friends asked for my advice and help in finding a bicycle. Fortunately, though their needs and budgets were different, I was able to give them both the same, hugely important tip. It also meant I started checking the bikes for sale on craigslist and, in doing so, I discovered lots of people don't know squat about how to advertise something!

Now before I get into this, I'll admit I'm jaded and, being both a bike nerd and advertising copywriter, I'm being hypercritical. I also admit that, since most craigslist ads are created by people who don't have advertising experience, I'm swinging at low hanging fruit. However, with all that said, let's make fun of some really poor ads!

Let's start with this one (click on the photos for a larger version):

"Just out of the box. Its brand new. Traveled only 1 block. Call or text..."

OK, there's no description but, if you're looking for this kind of bike, why not let the photo say it all, right? Well, the picture may be worth a thousand words but it also contains one glaring error; the front fork that holds the front wheel is aligned backward (and, in this configuration, the rider would never be able to align the wheel to go straight!). It's easily fixed (you can literally hold the fork between your legs and rotate the handlebars 180°) but, if you don't know bikes very well and just want something to cruise the neighborhood, you may not know that.

Lesson 1: Photos and graphics should project the best possible image of what you're selling.

Then, there's this one:

Not too bad. Decent, informative, honest description. Several photos showing a fair amount of detail. So what's the issue? The headline:

"Red and black road bike"

If you're looking for a red and black bike, then this is a great headline! Otherwise it tells you nothing about the bike for sale other than it's a road bike (that's red and black).

Lesson 2: Your headline should grab your customer's attention and draw them in.

And finally, there's this:

If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and this ad contains three pictures, then we have three thousand words that do nothing to describe or sell the bike. What size is it? How old is it? How much has it been ridden? Would it be the right bike for me? These are all small details that someone may want to know, especially before they drop $800 on a bike! All we can ascertain from this ad is that the Cannondale bike is either so hot, so fragile, or so brittle that it has to be handled with heavy duty work gloves (or the bike is stolen and our perp is going to great lengths to not leave any fingerprints...)

Lesson 3: Copy should be used to sell your product or brand. Highlight the features and benefits (the selling points) of a product. Reinforce the promise your brand (or the brand you're selling) makes to the buyer.

So, there you go. Three ads, three easy lessons to remember when advertising your business. For more examples of how not to advertise (like the above), check out craigslist. And, for more advice on advertising that will get your business rolling, check us out at www.palehosecommunications.com

Notes From The Road

As I'm freshly home from a family vacation that took me across the Kansas (the state, not the band) on our way to Colorado Springs (where we visited a large number of gift shops with tourist attractions attached), I just wanted to share a couple examples of why some people could still use some help with their advertising. (Please bear with me, as I drove on I-70 across Western Kansas and, quite frankly, as abundantly scenic as it is, there's not a whole lot of there there, and my mind did tend to wander a bit)

Let's start with the photo above. Granted, as America's national obesity problem continues to...grow, you're likely to see more signs like this in the future but, for now, this one points out the fine art of perception. Quick! Which term sounds lighter? One pound or 16 ounces? Sure, they're the same but, if you care about what and how much you ingest, what would you rather order? If you said 16 ounces, then congratulations, you have a chance to live beyond the age of 50. And that's why perhaps every restaurant in the world with the exception of Montana Mike's in Hays, KS (including what might be the most famous roadside steak restaurant in the Southwest), sells their entrees based on ounces, not pounds.

Then we have this from Prairie Dog Town in Oakley, KS (this was the second of three consecutive signs plugging Prairie Dog Town):

Let's read those last two lines literally, shall we? "See Live Rattlesnakes Pet The Baby Pigs" You know, we didn't stop (I don't do freak shows at home or on vacation), but I'm thinking just seeing one live rattlesnake pet the baby pigs would have been worth the price of admission. Yes, 99.9% of the people who drive by that sign see those lines as separate entities, but for those of us who are bored out of our minds and look for the absurdity in non-existent punctuation, it's another graphic example of why, sometimes, every business can use a little help with their advertising.

Yes, both the examples of poor writing/advertising are the product of my idle mind but, let them also serve as a lesson that, for even the simplest form of advertising, it always helps to write clearly so that your advertising helps your business put its' best foot forward. And, whether you're in Kansas (the state or the band) or any other state, if you need a little help with your advertising, feel free to drop us a line, and see how Ph Communications can put your business and brand on the road to bigger sales. We might even buy you a steak!

See also, last year's vacation fun, Advertising Isn't Rocket Science